Sophomore guard Nate Hinton records his seventh double-double of the season in a victory

Cougars win conference opener over UCF

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The University of Houston Men's Basketball team (11-3, 1-0) opened its American Athletic Conference schedule with a 78-63 victory over the UCF Knights (9-5, 0-1), Friday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston. With the win, the Cougars extended their winning streak to five, a stretch of games that began with a victory over UTEP and mid-season championship during The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

"The mindset of our team is to continuously remind ourselves that this is a new season," sophomore guard Nate Hinton said. "Conference is a new beast, and we are taking it one game at a time. To us, every game is a championship game."

While recording his seventh double-double of the season, Hinton scored a game-high 20 points (13 coming in the second half) on 58.3% shooting from the field, 50% from 3-point range. It was an exceptional all-around performance for the 6'5 guard out of Gastonia N.C., as Hinton notched a career-high 16 rebounds, five steals, three assists and a block in the win.

"Nate has just gotten better throughout the season," head coach Kelvin Sampson said. "When I recruited him, I knew from day one he was going to be a captain of this team because he impacts winning in so many different ways. He is a great representative of our program."

After missing two of their first three shots, it did not take long for the Cougars to shake off their holiday rust. Houston embarked on a 7-0 run ignited by freshman guard, Marcus Sasser, who scored five of the Cougars' first seven points following a slow start to the game.

However, a few bad calls and several unlucky buckets gave UCF a three-point lead en route of a 12-0 run late in the first half. Despite their mid-game turnaround, the Knights would not sustain their play as the Cougars took a 37-33 lead into the halftime break.

Although they closed the half connecting on all cylinders, the Cougars came out the gates in the second period struggling to buy a basket. After allowing UCF to come within two, Houston picked up their intensity on the defensive end and held the Knight scoreless for four straight minutes.

During the four-minute span, UCF missed seven consecutive shots and committed four turnovers during Houston's 9-0 run.

Junior forward Fabian White Jr, The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Most Outstanding Player, scored 13 points in the win, while Dejon Jarreau recorded 12 points shooting 12-for-14 from the charity stripe. For UCF, the Knights were led by Dazon Ingram who scored a team-high 13 points and Collin Smith who added in 11 in the loss.

Following the win, the Cougars will hit the road to take on the Temple Owls, Tuesday night, inside The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Tip-off is slated for 6:00 P.M. CT.

Quick Notes:

  • Freshman guard Caleb Mills left the game early in the second half following an allergic reaction. Coach Kelvin Sampson said after the game Mills is okay and will be ready to go by next game.
  • The Houston Cougars' outscored the Knights 28-15 in bench points.
  • The Cougars out-rebounded the Knights 45-41 in the win.


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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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